Syracuse University alumnus Vanessa Williams and PBS face criticism after performing “the black national anthem” on a TV special on July 4 on Sunday.
Williams, who hosted “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS, performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on the pre-recorded show. She told The Associated Press that she wanted to perform the song that became the black national anthem to celebrate Juneteenth, which is now a federal holiday to mark the end of slavery in the United States last month.
“This is to celebrate the wonderful opportunity we now have to celebrate Juneteenth. We are therefore like the times, ”the singer, model and actress told the AP.
According to The Wrap, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was originally written as a poem by NAACP frontman James Weldon Johnson in 1900. His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, went on to write music to accompany them. lyrics and has since become a staple of Black culture, from her appearance in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou and “Do the Right Thing” by Spike Lee to Beyoncé who performed it at Coachella in 2018 and Alicia Keys singing it for the Super Bowl LV pre-game show.
Williams, who was the first black woman to be crowned Miss America in 1983, also performed “God Bless America” earlier on the PBS program, which included fireworks in Washington, DC, and tributes to the America performed by Jimmy Buffett, Cynthia Erivo, Alan Jackson, Pentatonix, Jennifer Nettles, Train, Gladys Knight, Renee Fleming and more.
But conservatives have complained on social media from Williams and PBS, including “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
“We have a national anthem …”, wrote Newsmax host Steve Cortes on Twitter, referring to “The Star-Spangled Banner”, performed by Fleming on the show.
“Vanessa’s Honey, a BLACK national anthem is something a black African country would have, not a country like America that exists for everyone,” added Lavern Spicer, a Florida Republican who was unsuccessfully presented to Congress in November.
According to CNN, other social media users have called it “divisive,” “segregated” and “racist” to get more than one song to be considered a “national anthem.”
“There is a nation under God. Everything this awakened culture does is something that divides us. I won’t watch you create racism, ”a tweet said.
“What a farce! July 4th is for ALL Americans, regardless of race, ”wrote another.
Others supported Williams for the choice of song.
“Reading comments from people who had no idea that there had been an informal ‘black national anthem’ for 100 years is exactly why we need to broaden our historical context to include more facts in teaching this. nation, ”a Twitter user said. wrote.
“People stumble over the song of Lift Every Voice and Sing, aka The Black National Anthem, at the Capitol Fourth celebration… just read the lyrics and relax,” he said. mentionned.
Williams, who left SU after two years when she was crowned Miss America in 1983 but then graduated from Syracuse in 2008, has not commented on the backlash. On “A Capitol Fourth”, she said she was “filled with the spirit of freedom and perseverance necessary to achieve this most precious right”.
“I dedicate this to our ancestors, to our new federal holiday on June 17th, and to all who celebrate freedom,” she said of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.
Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday last month when President Joe Biden, also a Syracuse University alumnus, signed a bill recognizing June 19 as the first Juneteenth National Independence Day. The day commemorates the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers announced freedom to enslaved blacks in Galveston, Texas, two months after Confederation surrendered and approximately 2.5 years after proclamation emancipation that freed slaves in the Southern States.
Watch Williams’ performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at 1:49:37: